Blogging 101 – Getting Started

I’ve been surprised, honoured and humbled recently to receive a number of emails and tweets from people wanting advice starting out in the blogging world. While I’ve been blogging for a number of years I certainly wouldn’t say I’m an expert, which is why I’ve been so surprised that I’ve been asked for advice.  But, I am extremely honoured that I’ve been asked and I am only too happy to share my take on blogging.

As I’ve said I’m not a blogging expert, far from it in fact, and what I’m sharing is based on my opinion and experience, however I hope you will find it useful.

Settle on a topic

Quinoa salad

Being vegetarian I write about vegetarian food. I also love facts so I really enjoyed writing this post and sharing 10 amazing facts about Quinoa

What will the theme or topic of your blog be? This may seem a fairly obvious question, but it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you want to blog about. Do you want to write about vegetarian food, gluten free food, asian food, baking, food in general, fashion, interior design or some other topic?  I also think it’s important to ask yourself why you want to write about that particular topic. Is it because you are truly passionate about it or is it just because it’s popular at the moment? If you are passionate about your topic that will be evident to your readers.  It will also make it easier to write about as it will come from your heart.

Black Forest Cake

In addition to my love of vegetarian food I also love to bake. So naturally I feature both on Delicieux

Selecting a theme will also help when it comes to choosing a name for your blog. Ideally you want a name that is easy to remember and catchy.  If I started out again I certainly wouldn’t have chosen Delicieux as most people have trouble spelling it let alone pronouncing it. That is unless you are French of course!  Choose a name that is easy to pronounce and easy to remember.

Research

Once you’ve settled on a topic do your research.  Have a look at other blogs on that topic. What do you admire about those blogs? Is it the writing, the photography, the design of the blog? What don’t you like? What would you do differently?  Identifying what you do and don’t like will help you set the tone and style of your blog, and assist in differentiating you from the already crowded blogsphere. Most importantly, if you like someones blog DON’T steal. Find your own voice and style. Stealing in the blogging world, as with life in general, is a big no no!  And don’t think you won’t get found out, because you will!

The other important research you need to undertake is into the name you plan to give your blog. The last thing you want to do is start your blog and find another blog with the same name. A great tool to check your name availability on Social Media Networks (note it will also check WordPress.com too) is Namechk. All you need to do is enter your preferred name into the field at the top of the page and this handy little tool will then run checks against each of the social networks and show you whether the name is available. Neat huh?

How to check your blog name

After this step I suggest Googling your preferred blog name (or names) and to double check no-one else is using the name for their blog. Once you are satisfied you are ready for the next step – creating your blog.

Blogging Platform

There are many blogging platforms out there – Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress.com, self hosted WordPress, Moveable Type, Expression Engine, Squarespace, and Typepad to name a few. I’ve dabbled in a few of these platforms and found a self hosted WordPress blog to be the best option for me.  However, if you are just starting out in the blogging world I would strongly suggest starting with a WordPress.com blog. Why? Well, WordPress.com blogs are great place to get comfortable with blogging without getting too technical. In addition to that your blog will be hosted at WordPress meaning you don’t need to shell out hosting fees. Another important thing to consider when you are just getting started.  The last thing you want to do is pay hosting fees and find blogging isn’t for you.

Importantly, don’t simply sign up for a WordPress blog because it’s what I suggest. Again, do your research. Check out a number of blogging platforms and find which one is right for you and your needs.

If you do choose to go with WordPress.com signing up is easy. Simply visit their site and click Sign Up and enter your blog name, email, your name and password and click create blog. One important point of difference to note between a WordPress.com and a self hosted WordPress blog is that with a WordPress.com blog you cannot run ads or install plugins. As you are starting out that shouldn’t really be an issue because as you’re blog grows you can easily transition to a self hosted WordPress blog at a later date.

Wordpress.com

Once you’ve signed up for your blog you will need to pick a theme. Luckily WordPress.com has a huge selection to choose from. Find a theme you like and start from there. If you select a theme and then find out later you don’t really like it, that’s fine because you can easily change your theme.

Write great content

This is probably one of the most common pieces of advice about starting a blog but what does it really mean? Essentially you want to write about something that will engage your reader. Engaging your reader will continually bring them back to your blog to read new posts.

How do you do this? Well, everyone has a different way of achieving this. Some do it with humorous writing, others with an in depth knowledge of their topic of choice, and others through their passion for the topic. You don’t need to be an expert to write a blog about a particular topic, but you do need to be passionate about your topic of choice. I’ve seen a number of blogs over the years where the author starts out wanting to know more about food and learn more about cooking, and that passion is engaging and keeps brining you back to read about their journey.

Whatever it is you choose to write about, be authentic with yourself and write honestly. Don’t try too hard to be funny when you’re not, don’t try too hard to be an expert, don’t try too hard full stop. Just be yourself. Writing will come easier to some than others, but keep at it.  As with anything, the more you write the easier it will become.  Practice makes perfect.

Dianne Jacob Will Write For Food

For more information on writing a food blog check out Diane Jacob’s great book Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More (Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Blogs,).

Start out as you intend to continue

Think about how many posts you would feel comfortable writing on a weekly, fortnightly or even monthly basis going forward. Pick a number that is sustainable and stick to it, where possible. Blogging at regular intervals also helps in building up an audience. Don’t try to start out with daily posts only to find you can only manage one post per week.  Personally I try to blog three times per week. Most weeks I manage it, but there are some weeks, that despite my best efforts I just don’t as real life, or other projects get in the way.  If you aren’t able to keep to your schedule don’t stress, just continue on.

How personal do you want to get?

This is something I suggest you think about at the start. Do you want to put your name on your blog? What about the names of your family members or loved ones? Will you share details of your life or keep that quite private?  Again, everyone is different in regard to what they feel comfortable sharing. I see a lot of bloggers who write about what is going on in their lives, while others don’t feel comfortable sharing that much, and others still don’t share because they don’t think their lives are that interesting.  I probably fall into the latter group.  That being said though, there are a number of successful bloggers out there who share their lives and readers love that because it’s yet another way they can engage with the author.

In the age of Google, remember if you do share your life via your blog your employer, or future employer, and anyone for that matter, can read all about it. Think about potential repercussions before you inadvertently share too much.

Blogging is hard work

Blogging is an emotional rollercoaster. You will feel immense highs when you see people visiting your website and your page views go up in addition to receiving comments, but you can also feel lows when your page views go down or aren’t climbing as quickly as you like. It’s hard not to get too emotional, or feel disappointed when you don’t receive a single comment on any of your posts.  Just because you started a blog don’t expect it to become popular straight away.

Those popular bloggers you see out there have worked hard to get where they are today and, unless you are extremely lucky, you will have to work hard too.   Speaking from personal experience I spend hours every single day working on Delicieux. This includes time spent cooking (not everything I cook makes it to the blog because I don’t believe in blogging about something I don’t personally enjoy),  taking photos of my food, editing photos (and then perhaps taking more photos in the case I don’t like the first batch of images), responding to comments, responding to emails, checking stats, networking on social media, and researching new recipes. Personally I am in awe of people like Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella who manage to put out quality posts every single day. I don’t quite know how they do it all.

In addition to your investment of time, and again I am speaking as a food blogger, there is also a substantial monetary investment. Food, obviously, costs money, so testing recipes, especially recipes that fail and are only fit for the rubbish bin, is expensive. Photography equipment is expensive also, and as you invest more time in blogging it’s difficult not to want to invest more in better cameras and lenses to improve upon your work. Then there are also props for styling photos – plates, bowls, fabric, cutlery, glasses, etc. Finally, most importantly, there is time.  As I mentioned previously, bloggers invest a great deal of time in their blog.  There are ways to monetise your blog, and I will get to that in a future post, but regardless, that is unlikely to ever come close to compensating you for your actual investment. You can read more about how much time and money goes into food blogging here in a great post by Naomi of Bakers Royale.

Most importantly, don’t start blogging because you expect money and book deals to come rolling in. As I mentioned previously, those bloggers lucky enough to be offered book deals have worked hard, very hard, to get to that point. For some it’s taken years and years, and others it’s taken less time. If money and fame are your main motivations to blog, perhaps you need to rethink blogging…

Inspiring Bloggers

Some bloggers, through a lot of hard work and determination, have managed to turn their blogs into successful careers becoming authors and television hosts in the process. Here are just a few inspiring bloggers to check out:

101 Cookbooks – If you are a foodie I have no doubt you’ve heard of 101 Cookbooks, and if you haven’t, well, go check it out. Heidi’s wonderful blog started out documenting her journey exploring her overflowing cookbook collection, and over the years, and through a lot of hard work and dedication has lead to multiple book deals.

Simply Recipes – Elise’s blog began documenting family recipes she grew up with, and over the years has blossomed into a wildly successful blog with over 200,000 visitors per day. Yes, 200,000!

David Lebovitz - Again, if you are a foodie, David Lebovitz needs no introduction, but in case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the former Executive Pastry Chef at Chez Panisse and the author of 6 books – including The Perfect Scoop, Room for Dessert and The Great Book of Chocolate.

Bakarella – The queen of the cake pops perhaps needs no introduction, but if you haven’t checked out her blog you should if only for her wonderfully beautiful and creative treats.

Joy The Baker – Joy’s passion for baking, infectious enthusiasm and conversational and fun filled writing have lead to a book deal and the creation of Homefries.com, specialising in high quality food, wine and lifestyle podcasts.

The Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond is a wildly successful blogger who has published two books and has her own tv show on the Food Network.

 

Further reading

ProBlogger – 29 Tips, Tutorials and Resources for New Bloggers

Food Blog Alliance 

 

 

Have a question? Fire away in the comments section below. Are you a blogger? What would be your one most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting a blog?

Chocolate Beetroot Cake
Lime Olive Oil Cupcakes

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44 Comments

  1. Kerry Davenport February 17, 2012  12:52 pm Reply

    Love this article and am looking forward to more of the same subject. Today I enrolled in Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. I am going to have a frantic year with full time work and full time study, but am feeling very energised about it all. I've followed your blog for months and used a few of the recipes; most recently, the lemon syrup cake. Yum scrum!

    • delicieux February 17, 2012  5:02 pm Reply

      Thanks Kerry. I am glad you found the first post in this series useful. Congratulations on enrolling in your course. How exciting! I'd love to do something like that. Good luck with it all! :D

  2. Christina @ The Hungry Australian February 17, 2012  1:37 pm Reply

    Oh snap, Jennifer. What funny timing! I am literally just proofing a post I was writing to introduce my 100 useful links for foodbloggers post when I spotted your post.

    I agree with everything you've written here, which doesn't really surprise me :) We've come at it from quite different angles so I'd be interested to see what you think of my post.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and advice for all us emerging food bloggers. And congratulations on all your success over the last year!

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  11:04 am Reply

      Thanks :) And yes, it is funny timing. Great minds ;)

    • delicieux February 17, 2012  5:04 pm Reply

      Thank you Marina. :D I'm glad you found the first post in this series useful. I'm trying to break it down into manageable topics so as not to overload everyone with too much information at once. Hopefully you will find the other posts just as useful :D

  3. Rosa February 17, 2012  5:33 pm Reply

    Great tips! A very interesting and thourough article. Great job!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. Sara (Belly Rumbles) February 17, 2012  6:32 pm Reply

    Some really great tips for those starting out. You also taught me something, name chk, never knew that existed, wish I knew that when I started out :)

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:53 am Reply

      Glad you found it useful Sara :D Namechk is really a great tool. I wish I had discovered it when I started blogging too!

  5. Amanda February 17, 2012  8:36 pm Reply

    An excellent, thoughtful post full of great tips and offering plenty for the beginner blogger to think about - well done, Jen. Beginning a blog puts one on a bloody steep learning curve - I wish I'd read something like this before I started.

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:54 am Reply

      Thanks Amanda :D And I agree, blogging is a steep learning curve. Hopefully my series of posts will be useful for future bloggers so they don't have the big learning curve we did.

  6. thelittleloaf February 17, 2012  11:29 pm Reply

    This is great advice - I wish I'd been able to read it when I first started out blogging :-) Hoping you'll do some more in this series, including some photography tips as yours are always beautiful.

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:56 am Reply

      I will certainly be posting more in this series :D I didn't think to do a photography one because there are so many more talented people out there better placed to do this than me, but I will think about it. Thanks for your kind words :D

  7. Daisy@Nevertoosweet February 18, 2012  5:54 am Reply

    Thanks Jennifer :) for this great post! I'm a new blogger, only just started 3 months ago but I still feel like I don't know much about blogging and I'm still learning every day :) It's especially encouraging when you and other bloggers spend their time to give us advice and encouragement~

    I think all your advice is good and I really hope I'm on the right track :)

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:56 am Reply

      Thank you Daisy, I am glad you enjoyed it :)

  8. Amanda (@lambsearshoney) February 18, 2012  8:05 am Reply

    RT @ledelicieux Starting a Blog http://t.co/bXUr5W9B #blogging < Useful advice on what can be an overwhelming topic!

  9. Maddy Kirby (@ravenous_melbs) February 18, 2012  9:35 am Reply

    RT @ClaireKCreates: Great post for blog beginners from @ledelicieux: {NEW POST} Starting a Blog http://t.co/17X5YNrg #blogging

  10. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com February 18, 2012  3:56 pm Reply

    Jennifer,
    All great tips and thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I agree with you, blogging can become a commitment and once it does, there's no turning back unless it's just a hobby.

    We put a lot of hard work, no doubt and I am in awe with other successful bloggers out there. How Lorraine does it everyday, I have no idea. And I don't think I can produce quality content like her every single day. She is an inspiration for sure :)

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:58 am Reply

      I have no idea how she does it either, but she is an inspiration. :D

  11. Good Things (@bizzylizzycooks) February 18, 2012  5:00 pm Reply

    RT @ledelicieux: {NEW POST} Thinking about starting a blog? Read my guide to getting started http://t.co/73iOkwjE #blogging #foodblogging

  12. Amber February 18, 2012  5:09 pm Reply

    Thank you for posting this wonderful and helpful tips about blogging. It was very detailed and good. Very helpful to me.

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  10:58 am Reply

      Thans Amber, I am glad you found it useful.

  13. Roxana GreenGirl { A little bit of everything} February 19, 2012  9:14 am Reply

    Hi Jennifer
    such a well written post. I've been blogging for about a year now and almost everyday I learn something new. I'm still struggling finding the right balance between family/blog/social media.
    You touched so many good aspects of blogging, and indeed, if it doesn't come from the heart, better invest your time in doing something else.
    Looking forward to blogging 102, 103 ...

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  11:03 am Reply

      Thank you Roxana :D And you are right, every day you do learn something new.

  14. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella February 19, 2012  5:48 pm Reply

    This is a great article Jennifer! I agree with everything especially the be your authentic self and write quality content. And thank you so much for the shout out, that is very sweet of you to say! :D

    • delicieux February 20, 2012  9:55 am Reply

      It's also true :D I don't know how you do it everyday.

  15. Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake February 19, 2012  11:14 pm Reply

    This was a great post! I wish I found this before I started blogging! And I totally agree on how hard work blogging is and how emotion everything can be...I've shed a tear or two when certain aspects didn't work out and had my jumps of joy as well...
    I also love all those inspirational bloggers up there..:D

  16. Katie @Epicurean Mom February 20, 2012  1:35 am Reply

    Great tips Jennifer!! I wish I would have seen a post like this when I started Epicurean Mom!!

    Xx

  17. Sarah Robertson (@Lady_Robbo) February 20, 2012  9:51 am Reply

    RT @NotQuiteNigella: Great article on blogging if u are considering starting a blog via @ledelicieux http://t.co/TMRNpnAS

  18. GFDougie (@GFDougie) February 20, 2012  9:53 am Reply

    Sage advice! RT "@NotQuiteNigella: Great article on blogging if u are considering starting a blog via @ledelicieux http://t.co/n4OsWTbK"

  19. Baking Beats (@Baking_Beats) February 20, 2012  9:57 am Reply

    RT @NotQuiteNigella: Great article on blogging if u are considering starting a blog via @ledelicieux http://t.co/B6cIGQIB

  20. Queen V (@EtailQueen) February 20, 2012  10:06 am Reply

    RT @NotQuiteNigella: Great article on blogging if u are considering starting a blog via @ledelicieux http://t.co/TMRNpnAS

  21. Lana February 20, 2012  11:22 am Reply

    This is a great introductory post - I just wish I had read something similar when I started eighteen months ago:) If nothing else, my blog name would have been different (talk about hard to pronounce, spell, and understand)!
    Looking forward to the rest of the series:) Thanks!

    • delicieux February 21, 2012  1:08 pm Reply

      Thanks Lana, I'm glad you found it interesting. And I'm with you on the name. The things we learn in hindsight ;)

  22. gninethree February 22, 2012  1:18 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing and for all your useful tips. I personally did not think that much when I first started blogging. It was more about the spontaneity and just wanting to share good food places as well as nice recipes. Soon that passion evolved and I became more interested in photography too because I feel that good photographs are so important in a food post! Yes I admit, this hobby of mine is fast becoming a little costly for me but I still find all the trouble in writing a good post and the money spent so worth it when you are able to produce a good quality post. And finding great blogs like yours continues to inspire me to work even harder on my blogging! :)

    P.S. Love your photography. It's incredible! :)

    • delicieux February 24, 2012  3:52 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for your wonderfully sweet words. I hope you enjoy the next post in the series which will be published soon. :)

  23. Bek @ Crave December 7, 2012  4:41 pm Reply

    I'm so lucky to be coming across so many new-to-me Aussie blogs. I've been looking for you! Thanks for the tips and as Crave is still a baby, I'll definitely take these on board.

    Oh and nice to meet you fellow Aussie blogger- love the blog so far!

 

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